Major General Eric Vinoya, commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), minced no words as he vowed to “wipe out” the New People’s Army (NPA) remnants in Bohol and not allow the rebel group to reestablish a stronghold in the province which has been deemed insurgency-free for the past decade.
“We wipe them out from Bohol before, we will make sure to erase even their traces in the province once more with the support and cooperation of the peace-loving Boholanons,” Vinoya said.
Vinoya directed the 47th Infantry Battalion, the Bohol-based component of the 3ID, to hunt down the remaining rebels who clashed with a unit of the battalion in Barangay Cansumbol, Bilar on Saturday last week.
The encounter left two combatants dead, PFC. Jerald Villanueva, 26, of Sultan Kudarat and Marcelo Tejero Maldos, 55, of Loon who has been identified by the Army as an NPA member.
According to Vinoya, both the military and police have beefed up their forces in Bilar to pursue the rebel stragglers.
Meanwhile, Bilar Mayor Manuel Jayectin has implemented measures to maintain peace and order in the town following the clash.
Vinoya acknowledged the Boholanos’ vigilance and support for the government in keeping the province free of communist guerilla activities.
He said that communities will play crucial role in hunting down the remaining rebel fighters.
“With the Boholanons on our side, rest assured that we will protect Bohol from the menace of this communist-terrorist group. We will never let them harm the people of Bohol again. We will do it no matter what happens and whatever it takes,” Vinoya said.
Bohol used to be a hotbed of communist guerrilla movement but the government was able to crush the rebel group’s stronghold in the province in the late 2000s with the island being declared insurgency-free in 2010.
However, reports of several sightings of armed men started to surface in 2018.
Two clashes between government forces and suspected rebels also erupted in Bilar and Batuan in 2018 and 2019, respectively, but authorities have maintained that Bohol is still insurgency-free and have vowed to keep the province free of communist guerrillas.